Outcast, Heathen

The year is 2413, and humanity is no longer free. After encountering an alien race called the Heathen, hope was lost. They let us live to serve, and some are more than happy to live in peace this way. Others can't resist an opportunity to fight back. **NOTE** Due to dire disagreements with my chosen operating system, Outcast will sadly be going some time without an update, either until the data is recovered or I have managed to recreate the scenes. Thank you, sorry, and I hope you enjoy what's there while I work like mad to update!

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2. Chapter One

 

 

Anything but Witchcraft.

These were the words that my parents had haunted me with my entire life. I could be anything I wanted, except a witch. Gay, sex change, whatever. If I was no longer happy with my sixteen-year-old girl self, I could be anything else.

Anything but a Witch.

The year is currently 2413, and the Earth is officially dead. We've terraformed Mars and seven moons, between Saturn and Jupiter. Heck, we were even looking at Pluto at this point. We were spread out, huge in numbers, but just as stupid and sheepish as ever.

You see, the ban on Witchcraft came as part of the treaty with an alien race called the Heathen. Well, that's what they called themselves, as a rough translation. No one knows why, just that they look roughly humanoid, with an extra set of arms. A little extreme when it comes to color, either being blindingly pale or the darkest black you ever saw, sometimes with patterns between the two. Like zebras, or cows. They've got different markers though, feathers and claws and such that retract, making them look awkward but familiar.

When we first encountered them in 2278, our technology collapsed comparatively, and our entire militia had no hope of fighting back. But the Heathen didn't want to destroy us, only conquer us. They were the modern space Rome, I guess. Why no Witchcraft, though? In the war, there were a couple of powerful Covens that stood a fair chance of driving the Heathen back, even beating them. Until we humans ratted out our own kind, anyway.

So, as a result, we agreed to not practice Witchcraft, but they allowed us all other religious practices. Most still had power, but they didn't seek to harvest such raw, massive amounts that strong Covens could and did.

That's the basic history of it. They teach it everywhere, because Witches don't get a simple prison sentence. No, they get the old fashioned treatments—burning, drowning, beheading. Not necessarily in that order, either.

Enough from the history buff, though. More on the present day. My name is Mint. My legal name is Peppermint Brown, but I'm well known for my obsession over every breed in the family. So, I'm Mint. I'm sixteen, and I live on one of the Lunar Colonies of Saturn.

 

 

You could say I'm less than average. Or above average, it all depended on your angle. In astronomy, chemistry, math, I excelled beautifully. I failed everywhere else. But it wasn't too much of a problem for me. Not since my best friend had everything else down, lived just down the street from me and was always happy to use tutoring as an excuse to hang out.

My best friend. He's seventeen, intelligent, funny, an honest gentleman. His name is Azrael, and he's a Heathen. His father is a general charged with keeping Saturn's Colonies in check, and halting any and all rebellious activity before it becomes such. Naturally, he's happy to gloat over his son's teaching a little human how to be smart. If he knew the truth, neither me nor his son would get anything less than full punishment of treason.

That's nothing new, though. We've been dealing with that since we were twelve and thirteen. Ridicule from other Heathen and even humans was everyday. What changed was my sixteenth birthday, when Azrael should have killed me to save himself.

He'd showed up early to “tutor” me, sneaking over to my house for my birthday party. We weren't the poorest, but it still took nearly two months' savings just to get the small cake. My aunt made candles, and she'd taught me how to, as well. My father worked at a butcher shop, and as a small gift his boss granted him a small bag of good, fresh grind for the party. My mother was the general's favorite, well, escort and so even he chipped in some fresh produce, for the sake of human traditions, of course.

Azrael and I entered the house after school, greeted by the warm aroma of fresh cooked meat, vegetables and wax. He was going on about laws of a wormhole for transport or other, so when my face blanked out to glee at the party, he didn't seem to mind. He knew I didn't understand the science behind that stuff.

“Have I told you happy birthday yet?” he teased with a grin.

I pushed him playfully. “Only as many times as were inconspicuous.”

“Right,” he laughed, taking my book bag for me, pulling out a chair for me to sit at the same time. He put both of our bags away on a pair of hooks, sitting between me and my aunt, working on her candles. “Anyway, happy birthday.”

I laughed. “You hear that, Aunt Beatrice? I'm sixteen now.”

She didn't glance up from her work. “No, can't be. I've only got fifteen candles here, Mint.”

“Beatrice, be nice,” chided my mother warmly, cutting her vegetables for some stew. That was my birthday's special dinner. Vegetable stew, with meat patties and a bit of cake. I couldn't have asked for anything other than my family being there, but they insisted on a big party.

Dad sauntered in, sitting on Beatrice's other side. He'd already cleaned the animal blood from his hair and arms, looking almost decent except that his beard was still as unruly as ever. I swear, if the general ever got the idea he'd claim Dad's beard was a rebel in its own right. But the general didn't understand humor like that, nor did he care to.

“Happy birthday, Mint,” he told me with a fatherly smile. He turned that same smile on Azrael, not at all noticing the difference between us. “You been taking care of her today? Treating her like a lady?”

“Like an Empress of the Homeworld,” we both said at the same time, with that same slight mockery to it. We burst into laughter, nearly collapsing from our chairs. The Homeworld is the Heathen's home planet, a high security, almost sacred place. Growing up with humans gave Azrael an interesting view of his entire race. Again, if his father found out, we were both dead.

“Okay, okay.” We both straightened at my father's serious tone. He got the look he always had when he saw us after a day at school. “You've both been safe?”

He means to ask that no one suspects us of rebellious activities. Part of which is just how close of friends we are. Most people just think of me like his pet more than anything, but this is still serious. While there's no official law against it, the Heathen and the humans aren't supposed to mingle like that. It causes...complications.

“Yes, we're safe,” replied Az, sober.

“Good.” Father relaxed, satisfied. “Now, we have some surprises for you, Peppermint.”

I wanted to protest, but Azrael set a hand on my shoulder. “Don't, Mint. We wouldn't do anything we wouldn't want to.”

Mom grinned and pulled a small box from the cabinet nearest her. She handed it to me, then went to stand beside Dad. They both beamed at me proudly, but I couldn't move, stunned. The abrupt silence caught my aunt's attention, and she looked up.

“Usually, you use your hands to open things handed to you,” she teased with a smile. I sighed quietly, knowing it was pointless to resist any further. I opened the lid, sighing in admiration as I saw what was inside. A decorative cover greeted me, protecting all of its precious pages within. Beside the journal were three pens, all as beautiful as the journal they would be writing in.

“Thank you, this is...It's perfect,” I told them, standing and moving around the table to hug them all. By the time I had made it back to my seat, someone had slipped an envelope on the table in front of me. “Oh...”

“Spare them the blame, this is mine,” claimed Az, earning a solid glare from me. He ignored it, motioning to the envelope. “Stop, you're going to love it.”

I obeyed, lifting the envelope gently and sliding it open. The card inside came out easily, blank on the cover. Something fell from its grasp as I made to open it, and the slip of paper landed facedown on the table. I flipped it over, stopping right there.

“Az, how did you get this?! I thought everything was either outdated or banned,” I said breathlessly, admiring the photograph. It was of me and him a few weeks ago, when we were just laying on my bed and talking. We both had silly grins, but I can't remember what we had been talking about. Inside, the card said, “Something you can always smile to remember.”

“Well, I happen to know someone who knows someone who knows a museum curator. Very serious business,” he replied, earning a laugh from my father.

“It seems you have connections to the Heathen underground,” agreed Dad with a sober nod, fighting a smirk.

“I didn't know the Heathen used an underground,” confessed Aunt Beatrice, sending Dad over the edge and into laughter.

Azrael grinned, relaxing back as the celebrations unfolded around us. The stew came to a finish, embracing us all with a warm fragrance. Father and Az couldn't stop the banter, eventually even pulling Aunt Beatrice into the fun. I snuck away for a moment to tuck away my gifts, the picture inside the journal and that beneath my bed for safety. For the shortest moment, it felt like this could last forever.

But eventually, the laughter in the dining room subsided, drawing me into the silence. Curious, I left to investigate, walking in on several guilty faces. Azrael was talking quietly, his words barely audible, even though the only thing to compete with was the sound of myself breathing.

“—being sent to the Homeworld, on the next wormhole's trip,” he was saying, my attention captured in an instant.

Mom gave him a stern look that cut him off, and I noticed something I had the feeling I wasn't supposed to know about. That never stopped me before, though. “What's going on?”

They all looked at me with worry, Beatrice the first to recover. “It's something that can wait until tomorrow.”

I shook my head slowly, taking in how serious they all were with this. “No, this is something I need to know now.”

“Mint—”

“Tell me, Az!” I interrupted persistently, trying to meet his gaze, but he only had eyes for the floor. “What is going on?”

He looked up to my parents for permission and, regretfully, they both consented. Az sighed tiredly, standing to grab my hands and face me, like this would help somehow. Make it easier. He had to clear his throat a couple of times before the words would come out.

“My father...I'm being sent to a military academy,” he forced out, keeping his eyes on mine. It sunk in slowly, and I understood why he was holding my hands like that. Like a lifeline, to keep from us drifting off anywhere we shouldn't be. “I'm leaving for the Homeworld in a couple of weeks.”

The words stuck in my ears, refusing to move anywhere as they echoed around for awhile. Azrael, go to a military academy? He could never hurt anyone! He couldn't leave. The lights flickered as tears came to my eyes.

“No. Az, you can't...” I choked, but I didn't know how to continue my thought. It simply wandered from my grasp to die in the world.

“Mint, I'm sorry, but I have to go,” he contradicted quietly, but I wasn't hearing him.

“No! You can't leave!” I yelled, throwing his hands from mine. I didn't know what to do now that I was on my own, but it had to be better than just taking it! The Heathen already had everything my ancestors once cherished, they couldn't take Azrael, too! They couldn't have him, not to turn him into another murderer!

“Peppermint—”

“NO!”

The lights went out. We all stopped where we were, silent but for our breathing as we waited for the lighting to come back on. Out of nowhere, the candles set out on the table bloomed to life. We all stared, my anger extinguished in that instant.

“Mint, honey,” said Mom gently, looking across at me through the candlelight. “Calm down. U-until the lights come back, okay?”

I nodded shakily, letting Azrael guide me back to the table and sit me down. I was shaking, stunned by the news and the...lighting. I focused on the table, ignoring the implications of the evening. Azrael leaving, that...that was impossible to accept. He had been the gravitational point in my life since we had met a four years ago. He made the everyday abuse okay, made the pain of bruises or chains feel like less. Losing that would be like losing my lungs. Not even starting on the candles...

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